New York City Mayor Eric Adams is stuck between the community that put him in office and the community that, from the outside looking in, he’s serving.
The mayor took to Albany this week to address his issues with bail reform. Speaking in front of state legislatures, Adams went on the offensive on bail reform, but supported Raise the Age legislation.
“And as I’ve previously mentioned, we also ask for the state to make targeted amendments to New York’s bail laws to allow judges to consider a defendant’s dangerousness, especially for individuals accused of perpetrating gun violence,” said Adams in Albany. “We also support removing overly burdensome disclosures. The extensive requirements of the new discovery bill have led to too many delays and dismissals.”
The current bail reform law helps reduce the amount of time someone spends in jail awaiting trial because they don’t have the money to pay bail. Watchdogs such as the Center for Court Innovation suggest that this would reduce the prison population by almost 40% by eliminating cash bail from most arrests.
Adams supports Raise the Age (the state legislation that changed the age when a child can be prosecuted as an adult to 18 in criminal), when he said, “Too many New Yorkers in their late teens and early twenties have abused this change, demanding young people under 18 take the fall for guns that are not truly theirs. The law is being used to victimize our youth.”
However, Adams, and others, have used the recent fatal stabbing of Christina Yuna Lee, by Assamad Nash, who followed her into Chinatown home early in the morning, as fodder for fighting against bail reform and blamed bail reform for the recent uptick in crimes. Two weeks ago, NYPD stats declared robberies up 33%, grand larceny up 58.1%, citywide shootings up 31.6% from this time in 2021. Murders saw a 15.2% decrease.
Adams has used this to rail against bail reform despite critics saying he’s comparing apples to oranges.
In a recent open letter to the AmNews, various attorneys and activists have stated that they support Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s “Fairness and Safety” initiatives. One of the signatories, international human rights attorney
Roger Wareham, said that the letter was necessary to hold off those who want to stop Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s agenda before it begins.
“We initiated the letter because we believe that the initiatives being taken by the Manhattan D.A. begin to address several of the race and wealth inequities which are essential components of a criminal system that historically enacts a double standard of so-called ‘justice’ in the U.S.
“We are concerned that before the D.A. even has a chance to begin putting his program into place, he faces a political and media opposition which distort the issues and create a public backlash against his initiatives,” said Wareham.
“The attack on a bail reform law which was passed by the New York State legislature and signed into law by former Governor Cuomo, and not by D.A. Bragg, is being lumped into the assault on the D.A.’s undertaking. These attacks are not based on actual facts but on a political agenda determined to return to the ‘good old days’ where Black people are randomly arrested and presumed guilty because of their race.”
Wareham said that the initiatives taken by Bragg are addressing race and wealth inequality in the justice system.
“The D.A. can combat these baseless attacks by sticking to the facts, speaking with the constituencies which have genuine concerns,” Wareham believes. “We signed this letter to let the world know that there are those of us who have a history of demonstrated care and concern for our community who support his progressive initiatives. We understand that this is a microcosm of the same struggle going on across the country.”
Last month, the AmNews spoke with Bragg about staying the course with the echo chamber shouting doom and gloom to the masses. The harassment he’s received has led Wareham and others to rally around him.
In Adams’ case, you can’t please everybody. New York State GOP Leader Nick Langworthy said that Adams wasn’t strong enough in his stance regarding bail reform.
“Mayor Adams folded on bail reform like a cheap suit. Democrats are more concerned with their Party’s radical, internal politics than the safety of 19 million New Yorkers,” said Langworthy in an emailed statement. “They don’t care how many people get hurt at the hands of their dangerous policies. Yesterday’s meeting in Albany between the mayor and Democrat leaders should serve as an urgent reminder of why it’s so necessary to break up Democrats’ one-Party rule in New York.”
On the other hand, activists fought for things to say the same.
The Legal Aid Society, Brooklyn Defender Services, The Bronx Defenders, New York County Defender Services, Queens Defenders and the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem put out a statement recently noting to the mayor that there will be a call to verbal arms if there were any drawbacks to bail reform laws.
“Legislature leaders and other lawmakers have made it abundantly clear: bail reform and Raise the Age were necessary changes and these measures are here to stay,” read their emailed statement. “Adding a ‘dangerousness provision’ to the existing bail statute would only cycle more Black and Latinx New Yorkers through our broken and punitive criminal legal system, feeding mass incarceration. Returning to a system where New York incarcerates more youth will not work because it never reduced crime nor benefited public safety in the 100 years before Raise the Age or bail reform were passed.”
Attempts to contact New York State Assembly Member Carl Heastie and State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins by press time were unsuccessful.
“The NYPD maintains a secretive, arbitrary list of people it deems gang members called the Criminal Group Database, or Gang Database. This database is racially discriminatory, with over 99% of people listed in the database being non-white, and the overwhelming majority of people listed being Black or Hispanic people,” noted 40 The Grassroots Advocates for Neighborhood Groups and Solutions (GANGS) Coalition41, in a statement. A person does not need to have committed a crime to be included in the database.
When asked if his arguments against bail reform were in bad faith and were exploiting the brutal murder of Christina Yuna Lee for political gain, a spokesperson for the mayor said, “Mayor Adams has made clear his top priority is public safety. It is paramount that we remove guns from our streets, protect our communities, and create a safe, prosperous, and just city for all New Yorkers. None of these are mutually exclusive goals, and must go hand-in-hand.”